'I exercise to honour my body, not change my size': Maria Thattil

‘I exercise to honour my body, not change my size’: Maria Thattil


Maria Thattil is a speaker, writer, creator and Miss Universe Australia, who is also a strong and vocal advocate for empowering women and girls.

She’s long been quick to call out double standards as well as sexism, misogyny and so much more — including recently, during a series of Instagram posts on her horror at being accidentally included in a WhatsApp group of 19-year-old men and seeing what they were saying about women.

She’s previously written for Women’s Agenda on how she not only aims to open doors, but to create spaces for the “community of dreamers” who are challenging the world as we know it to make new things possible.

Given what she’s previously shared on healthy body positivity and loving yourself for who you are, we wanted to ask Maria a little more about how she manages her health — as well as what she wants other women to know about health.

A quick takeaway from the below is how she’s reset how she thinks about exercise. She exercises to honour her body (which is why, as you’ll read, music plays such a vital role) rather than trying to meet expectations of “shaping up” or changing her size.

She’s the latest to feature in our series of women sharing how they manage their health, as part of our weekly Women’s Health News newsletter.

In the morning I…

Keep my portable speaker by my bedside table, and I put on a playlist of music that makes me want to move, laugh and dance. It motivates me to not only get out of bed, but to bounce out of bed and ENJOY myself in the process of waking up and making my bed – to encourage PRESENCE in seemingly mundane activities. I’ll never forget relishing research that affirmed that listening to pleasurable music can elicit positive emotional states. 

I then boogie my way in to the kitchen and love to consume either (dependent on mood of the morning) a hot glass of water with a dash of fresh lemon and ginger, a steaming cup of matcha green tea or a strong oat latte. The shower is the next stop, so that I am fresh and ready to take on my day.

My exercise routine includes…

My philosophy for movement has evolved over the years – I view exercise as a way to FEEL fit and strong, as opposed to LOOKING a certain way … a philosophy I would teach to my younger self. As a non-sporty child growing up, I used to perceive myself as awkward and inactive – but as a woman, I discovered that exercise and fitness is highly personal and you just have to find the right medium. So my medium is lagree fitness; I attend classes 3-4x and enjoy the full body workout that challenges me both physically and mentally.

Whilst in lockdowns, I’ve supplemented time on the Megaformer with long walks, at home workouts and to keep myself regular, I like to share my exercise routines on social media with my following because if I say I’ll share it, I’ll stick to it! It has been challenging in lockdown though, I find it hard to work out at home in my apartment with the gyms and lagree studio closed. This is where my mindset comes in handy – I am helped by the perception that my exercise routine is not something I implement to ensure I’m shaping up, change my size or achieve a certain look, rather it is to honour my body through movement. This helps me to use it as a something to feel better when I have the capacity to do it, and if my body needs rest, I don’t guilt myself for allowing it. 

My favourite workout is…

Lagree lover here, so absolutely a 45 minute session on the Megaformer. I love balancing the instruction from the trainer with my own thoughts as I will myself through some really strong burns and tough moves. 

I find balance in…

Ensuring I make time to stay aligned spiritually and mentally. In the lead up to Miss Universe, I was disproportionately focused on the work and preparation involved in that campaign (understandably so), but knew that when I returned from the competition, I would never consciously endeavour to make time for mindfulness and the things that rejuvenate me on a soul level.

On health, I encourage women to…

Be informed and know your rights to your own bodies, your own health and to honouring how you think and feel about it. So often, we receive an influx of sometimes conflicting information on the many devices we use in this connected, digital age we live in … and the constant messages about what is and isn’t healthy for us, what we should and could be doing, how we should present and what is okay can often be stifling. I encourage you to speak to qualified health professionals and exercise your right to make choices that feel right to you. I also encourage you to remember that health holistically encompasses more than just the physical and the mental. Also – your body, your choice. Be kind to and love yourself.

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